As a follow up to PLA’s March 2020 Public Libraries Respond to COVID-19 Survey, a new American Library Association (ALA) survey of U.S. libraries documents a shift in services to support students, faculty, and communities at large during the crisis and phased preparations for the months ahead. More than 3,800 K-12 school, college and university, public, and other libraries from all 50 states responded to the survey between May 12–18, 2020.
While virtually all libraries (99%) report limited access to the physical building, survey respondents shared leaps in the use of digital content, online learning, and virtual programs. Several themes emerged from the survey results, including that libraries are: involved in community crisis response, cautiously planning for re-opening facilities, committed to meeting the educational needs of students and researchers, and experiencing ongoing or increased demand for library programs and services.
COVID-19 crisis response: of respondents involved in community crisis response, the majority reported new partnerships, distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE), addressing food insecurity, and sharing accurate community information and resources.
Caution with facility re-opening: Virtually all libraries have expanded virtual and phone services during the crisis, continuing a trend of library activities beyond physical walls. The survey finds that most libraries have limited access to their buildings while they work to establish health and safety protocols for staff, social distancing requirements for patrons, and processes for sanitizing materials. Curbside pickup, delivery, and by-appointment services are the most common next steps as national and state/local guidance evolve. Over one-third (37%) of respondents expect phased re-opening in June and July, and almost half (47%) are unsure when buildings will begin to re-open to the public.
American Library Association. (2020). Libraries respond: COVID-10 survey. Chicago, IL: Author.
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